'Day of Infamy' Lives at New Pearl Harbor Museum

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Visitors to Pearl Harbor can now experience for themselves what it must have felt like the moment America suffered one of the worst attacks in American history.

Using the latest technology, visitors to the Pearl Harbor Museum and Visitors Center, a part of the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument, can relive the sights and sounds of that day as the Japanese began their aerial attack on Oahu, Dec. 7, 1941.

After two years of construction, the new $58 million facilities will be formally dedicated Tuesday, Dec. 7 by the National Park Service. This year marks the 69th anniversary of the Japanese attack.

Click play to watch an old news reel from News Parade on the bombing of Pearl Harbor, courtesy of The Open Video Project.

More than 80 survivors of the surprise attack and their families are expected to attend the opening. The new facility replaces the current USS Arizona Memorial Visitor Center shore-side museum.

New Facilities

"The old visitors center was literally sinking into fill land," Eileen Martinez, chief of interpretation at the center told CBN News. "The new center combines public and private donations -- state, federal and private money will be used. More than $30 million of the total $58 million will be donated."

The new museum will double its current exhibit space, allowing for more galleries, audiovisual presentations, interactive exhibits and displays of artifacts. New specially made display cases filled with nitrogen will also protect delicate World War II artifacts from Hawaii's wet and humid climate.

Six additional acres have been added to the memorial complex, making its campus a total of 17 acres. The Pearl Harbor Museum receives 1.5 million visitors annually.

'A Date Which Will Live in Infamy'

The Japanese's surprise attack on the U.S. Navy's Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor propelled the United States into World War II.

Nine ships in the U.S. fleet were sunk and 21 ships were severely damaged during the attack. The overall death toll reached 2,350, including 68 civilians, and 1,178 injured.

Of the military personnel lost at Pearl Harbor, 1,177 were from the USS Arizona, whose forward section exploded when a Japanese bomb detonated near the battleship's ammunition magazine.

Ironically, the first shots of the war in the Pacific were actually fired by the destroyer USS Ward after a Japanese midget submarine surfaced outside of the harbor.

The Ward succeeded in sinking the sub one hour before the Japanese aerial attack began on the U.S. Navy base. Japan lost a total of 29 out of the 350 aircraft during the Sunday morning attack.

The next day, before a joint session of Congress, President Franklin Roosevelt asked for a declaration of war against the Empire of Japan, calling December 7, 1941, "a date which will live in infamy."

Galleries Bring History to Life

The new museum features three main galleries -- The Road to War, Oahu 1941, and Attack and Aftermath.

The Road to War gallery depicts the pre-war Japanese and American world views through various audiovisual displays and interactive exhibits.

"The display examines the critical thinking of both nations at the time," Martinez explained. "It also shows how the battleship would soon become obsolete due to the advance of the aircraft carrier in warfare."

The Oahu 1941 exhibit shows civilian life in Hawaii as it was before the war. It also reveals the growing strategic importance of what was then mostly isolated islands.

As visitors enter the Attack and Aftermath gallery, they walk back in time to  Dec. 7, 1941 as the Japanese are attacking Pearl Harbor and Oahu.

Artifacts, displays, and oral memories of both the American and Japanese survivors will be used to highlight the events of that day. The Aftermath exhibit also feature life in the islands following the attack, the experiences of Japanese-Americans during the war, and the war as it continued to be waged in the Pacific.

Reliving the Human Loss

"Visitors will experience the story of the attack on Pearl Harbor through the eyes of those that lived it. The people who lived it speak the story and that's pretty powerful," Martinez said.

"You'll hear not only the words of American servicemen and women, but stories from civilians, and the Japanese aviators -- even from Japanese civilians -- what they were thinking," she added.

Martinez said one item in the exhibit is a huge piece of the USS Arizona that contains a doorway.

"You see a very human element," she explained. "Men walked through that doorway that morning and never returned."

'Skyping' with History 

In addition, the museum's new Education and Research Center also provide video-teleconferencing capabilities to accommodate the growing number of students who participate in the museum's award-winning "Witness to History" distance learning programs.

School children and college students around the world can connect remotely to learn first-hand about the history of the December 7, 1941 Pearl Harbor attack, the history of WWII in the Pacific, as well as Hawaiian history and culture.

"It's important to have kids come to visit the museum and if they can't come here to speak to Pearl Harbor survivors via video. Because, as we move away in time, we understand less and less," Martinez pointed out.

Special Commemoration

The National Park Service will host a special ceremony in honor of those who served on the USS Oklahoma during the attack on Pearl Harbor.  The Battleship Oklahoma was berthed along Ford Island on Dec. 7, 1941, and suffered the second greatest loss of life during the attack.

The memorial includes 429 marble columns symbolizing each of the crewmembers who lost their lives on that fateful day.

The new museum at Pearl Harbor will continue to tell the story of the brave men and women who endured America's worst military attack and whose generation went on to win the war with "Remember December 7" emblazoned in their minds, their hearts, and their souls.

"Pearl Harbor is a place of peace, reconciliation, history and hope, " Martinez said.

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